Dan Nainan is a 35-year old who often speaks for the Millennials: he crops up in piece after piece as a secondary source, reinforcing whatever angle the story takes on this most endlessly fascinating of generations.
Ben Collins writes, however, that he's actually a corporate-gig comedian in his mid-fifties. Moreover, the spokesmillennial thing isn't some clever, media-trolling prankery: Nainan insists he's 35, even as public records says otherwise. He obviously wouldn't pass for his claimed age–even his pro headshots are tell-tale–but seems to be doing quite well for himself as retirement age approaches. Which leaves the rather unsettling question: why?
I get it, I told him. It's time to tell the whole story, I said. Being in your 40s and leaving Intel to become a millionaire comedian is even more impressive than some guy in his 20s making it in comedy like everybody else, right?
So tell me, are you 35 or 55?
Then a pause.
"I'm 35," he said. "The mistake is in my birth record."
A few minutes later, he said he wanted to talk to his lawyer before he said anything else.
Discussion centers, fairly, on his representations to the media and our mindless complicity in publishing them. There's also a some spiteful pleasure being had shaming him for his apparent vanity.
I'm struck by the thought that it was once common and reasonable for bachelors to be evasive about their age. The reasons for doing so are largely historical now, but way back when it made it harder for people to find material to blackmail or expose you or otherwise screw with your professional life if there was something about you that could unfairly compromise it. Those who did this have now come into contact with an era of easily-checked public records. Dan's experience resembles those of people whose professional self-image has come to depend on white lies, but whose success makes them impossible to maintain.
So while he might be a total dick on the internet, a little compassion will probably go a long way with Dan. Oh yes, and fact-checking too.
It's also interesting what got him exposed in The Beast: a profile in Forbes. Forbes is a traditional redoubt of business journalism, but in recent years has morphed into a blog platform. This results in lots of content, much of it trash, under a masthead that confers authority and weight.
This is often complained about for the obvious reasons, but here we see how the market gets its revenge on marketers who take advantage of the PR laundering service Forbes cannot help but provide. It might be easy to get the glow of a Forbes profile, these days, but the price is that you'll be held to the standards that Forbes doesn't apply to its contributors. Everyone knows whose blood is in the water.